September 30, 2009

B'Tselem the zionist "human rights" group

I've been happy enough to run with B'Tselem's criticisms of Israel in the past but I have had doubts about them. It was never anything I could actually put my finger on so I suppose I should be grateful for the fact that B'Tselem's group director, Jessica Montell, has decided to run with the zionist pack over the Goldstone report on Israel's bout of war crimes against the civilian population of Gaza at the end of last year and the beginning of this one.

Here's the Jerusalem Post:
The UN Human Rights Council and its recent Goldstone Report are either biased or mistaken respectively in some of their fundamental accusations against Israel, according to the director of one of Israel's main rights groups.

Even so, "Israel has only itself to blame" for its failure to investigate the accusations of abuses during January's Operation Cast Lead that led to the report, according to B'Tselem executive director Jessica Montell.

"There's no question that the HRC, which mandated the Goldstone [fact-finding mission into the Gaza fighting], has an inappropriate, disproportionate fixation with Israel," she said, adding that the Council was "a political body made up of diplomats, not human rights experts, which means that the powerful states are never going to come under scrutiny the way the powerless will. So China, Russia and the US will never have commission of inquiry, regardless of how their crimes rank relative to Israeli crimes."

Furthermore, the Goldstone Report itself, which was presented in its final version to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, is "disagreeable" and mistaken in some of its gravest accusations against Israel, she believes. These include the claim that Israel intentionally targeted the civilian population rather than Hamas, and the "weak, hesitant way that the report mentions Hamas's strategy of using civilians [in combat]."

And that is the leading human rights group in Israel. Well I should say that it styles itself the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Is comment necessary here? Oh alright then, here goes:

First up, how can she say that the report is wrong to say that Israel targeted civilians? This was well known during the operation and many Israeli soldiers blew the whistle on it.

Second, she says that Hamas should have been criticised. Why should any Palestinian group be criticised by a body that is supposed to regulate the behaviour of states? Israel has done all in its power to thwart Palestinian aspirations to statehood or participation in statehood. How can an Israeli "human rights" activist demand of a UN body that it treat Hamas like a state. That is without getting into the fact that the Goldstone report did criticise Hamas.

Finally, the idea that the HRC has a disproportionate fixation with Israel is at best irrelevant. If Israel is breaching human rights, and its very existence is predicated on the on-going breach of the human rights of the Palestinians, then that should stand alone. If B'Tselem is concerned about Israeli human rights abuses then it shouldn't be calling for the HRC to look elsewhere instead of Israel.

B'Tselem could have called for international human rights groups to take a look at other states as well as Israel but since they have a serious lack of credibility, what would be the point?

Ehud Barak avoids war crimes charges on technicality

This is strange. Ok, the UK allowing an Israeli war crimes suspect to evade justice isn't strange at all but the reasoning this time is very strange. Look at this Guardian article by Ian Black and Ian Cobain:
Israel received an uncomfortable reminder of international anger over the Gaza war today when lawyers representing 16 Palestinians asked a London court to issue an arrest warrant for its defence minister, Ehud Barak, who is visiting Britain.

After a day of delays and legal wrangling the bid failed on the grounds that Barak enjoyed diplomatic immunity from prosecution. But the episode triggered a brief storm that is likely to give Israeli officials second thoughts about the risk of prosecution in foreign courts.

Barak was last night addressing a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference in Brighton, and is due to meet Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the foreign secretary‑— triggering new protests.

Furious Israeli officials insisted all day that he was protected by diplomatic immunity and could not be legally detained.

The action related to alleged war crimes and breaches of the Geneva conventions during the Gaza offensive, launched by Israel last December in response to Palestinian rocket attacks and widely criticised. The death toll is disputed, but the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says 1,387 Palestinians died, including 773 people not taking part in hostilities.

Solicitors asked a district judge at the City of Westminster magistrates court to issue a warrant for the minister's arrest under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which gives courts in England and Wales universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases.

The hearing was postponed while the court asked the Foreign Office to clarify Barak's status in the UK. The lawyers making the application said they believed a warrant could be issued even if he was in Britain in an official capacity.

Intensive contacts were understood to have taken place throughout the day between London and Jerusalem. Barak is also deputy prime minister of Israel and leader of the country's Labour party.

Lawyers from Irvine Thanvi Natas and Imran Khan & Partners said they believed the warrant that the international criminal court issued in May last year for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, offered a precedent. Bashir is accused of committing war crimes in Darfur.

Now there are a couple of strange things here. The first is that the article claims that in addition to being a war criminal, Ehud Barak is also Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Israeli Labour Party. The thing is, I don't think there has ever been a Deputy Prime Minister of Israel that wasn't a war criminal. Can anyone think of one? How about Labour Party leaders? There was one, wasn't there? He had been the Mayor of Haifa. When Arabs rioted in Haifa over Sharon's visit to Temple Mount, when Barak had lots of Israeli Palestinians killed, the Mayor of Haifa (whose name I can't remember) stopped the police from coming into Haifa and doing the same thing there. But by and large being a war criminal is a prerequisite for holding high office in the Israeli government.

But that isn't the strangest thing. The strangest thing is the reasoning being used by the court to allow yet another Israeli war criminal to get away with mass murder. See what the judge said:
Deputy district judge Daphne Wickham said allegations of war crimes had been well documented, but added: "I am satisfied that under customary international law Mr Barak has immunity from prosecution as he would not be able to perform his functions efficiently if he were the subject of criminal proceedings in this jurisdiction."
But other holders of similar offices in other countries have been sought, caught, prosecuted and punished.

It's almost as if the powers that be in this country want Israel's officialdom to get away with war crimes. But then given the sheer illegality of the Anglo-American assaults on Iraq over recent decades, perhaps the powers that be here in the UK have a stake in watering down international humanitarian law.

But something has been gained here. The judge could not deny that war crimes have been committed by Israel so the best thing to do was to dream up this immunity scam. Fine. The moral case is clear. Israel is a thoroughly illegitimate state whose existence is predicated on its on-going war crimes. This is actually a point scored for BDS because now Israeli officials, war criminals one and all, are on the receiving end of smart sanctions. Of course they can travel to many, most, western countries, but these humiliations will follow them around. Their war criminal status now means that for Israel's war criminals, highly publicised diplomatic immunity is the only way to travel. But (I know I know, too many buts) what about when the people bringing the prosecutions lower their sights to those pulling the triggers or giving orders on the ground? How many diplomatic passports can Israel issue to a population with a disproportionate number of racist war criminals in its midst?

September 28, 2009


The PA committed to 'water down'

Sometimes the news from Israel are so sick that you can't even begin to paraphrase it.

...another, more substantive issue was recently added, when the Palestinian Authority appealed to the International Criminal Court. Security sources told Haaretz that this move, which was authorized by Fayyad and Abbas, incensed senior officials of the defense establishment, especially army Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi has been kept busy by involvement in a holding action against the threat that Israeli officers would be brought before the court as a result of charges that the IDF committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Concern has intensified following the grave report that the Goldstone Commission released two weeks ago on behalf of the United Nations.

In Israel the argument is that the PA is being unfair, and that at the time of the operation in the Gaza Strip, last winter, its senior officials encouraged their Israeli counterparts to step up the pressure on Hamas, and even to attempt to bring its rule in the territory to the point of collapse. However, at a latter stage they joined those decrying Israel and its alleged actions in the Strip.

In light of this tension, the chief of staff conditioned his approval of a second cellular provider to the Palestinians' withdrawing their appeal to the court.

"The PA has reached the point where it has to decide whether it is working with us or against us," senior figures in the defense establishment have said. At the PA it is being said, in response to the Israeli demands, that Abbas and Fayyad will water down their appeal to the ICJ, though they will refuse to promise that it will rescinded entirely. (Haaretz)

September 27, 2009

New Labour capitulates to fascism

Jack Straw, the UK's Minister for Justice, has said that he is willing to share a televised platform with the fascist British National Party's leader, Nick Griffin. Here's The Guardian:
British National Party leader Nick Griffin is to take part in a televised debate with Justice Secretary Jack Straw on BBC1's Question Time, it has been confirmed.

The announcement came after Mr Straw became the first senior Labour politician to say that he was willing to appear on the show with Mr Griffin.

The BBC have confirmed the two men are among the panellists booked for a recording of the show, hosted by David Dimbleby, in London on October 22.

The BBC sparked controversy earlier this month when it announced that it would be willing to feature representatives of the BNP on Question Time after the party won two seats in the European Parliament in elections in June.

Labour reviewed its long-standing approach of refusing to share a platform with the far-right BNP and Gordon Brown made clear he was ready to allow a minister to take on Mr Griffin, now an MEP for the North West of England.

But Cabinet ministers such as Peter Hain and Alan Johnson said they would not go on Question Time if the BNP leader was invited.

Mr Straw told BBC1's The Politics Show North-West edition: "Wherever we have had BNP problems in my area and when we have fought them hard, we've pulled back and won the seats back. And that's what we have to do. We've got to make the argument for people and I am delighted to do so."

Delighted? Not as delighted as the publicity hungry fascists.

September 26, 2009

Surviving the holocaust industry?

I got an email from a holocaust survivor asking me if I could run a post on something she had noticed in Ha'aretz. It was an article that appeared in May of this year that shows that in spite of the work of Norman Finkelstein exposing the hucksters of what he calls the holocaust industry, the self-styled Claims Conference is still behaving in the same shameless fashion that Finkelstein exposed in his work.

I'm not sure where the case is at right now but a journalist, Guy Meroz, accused the Claims Conference of delaying payments to specific holocaust survivors so that they would die and the money could then remain with the Claims Conference who could then presumably dispose of the funds as they saw fit. The distributor of funds in Israel from the Claims Conference is called the Centre of Organisations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel. The Claims Conference has linked payment of funds to the Centre of Organisations to whether or not the latter criticises the former. Here's Ha'aretz:
The Claims Conference represents world Jewry in negotiating compensation for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs. It also administers compensation money and funds institutions providing social welfare to Holocaust survivors, including the Centre of Organizations. Israel is home to some 250,000 Holocaust survivors, many of them poor.

The final clause in the proposed contract stated that, should the umbrella group take the money and then criticize the Claims Conference, it would be required to repay the debt immediately, and the Claims Conference would halt future funding.

The Claims Conference gives $50 million annually to the Centre's Welfare Fund, an independent body. A spokesperson for the Claims Conference said the final clause does not pertain to this annual funding.

Representatives from the 51 groups that make up the Centre of Organizations met to discuss the proposal on Wednesday. "We were outraged," one representative told Haaretz. Another said: "It's obviously an attempt by the Claims Conference to prepare for their libel suit against journalist Guy Meroz."

Last year the Claims Conference sued Meroz over his documentary "Musar Hashilumim" ("The Morality of Payments"), which aired in May 2008, and accused the organization's leaders of withholding funds from survivors until after they had passed away. The case has not yet reached the court.
A little googling turned up a trailer for Guy Meroz's documentary:

And the next clip I noticed on Youtube was this one:

The second clip is from 2006, the first from 2008. Between 2006 and now Ehud Olmert, the then Prime Minister of Israel allowed holocaust survivor pensioners $20 a month more than they had been getting. So where is all this restitution money going?

Rot unto the nations

September 25, 2009

Zionazi agreement

It's that word again, zionazi. What's all this about? Well it's nothing new actually. It's an article in the Jerusalem Post by Edwin Black (more in a bit) about the first known instance of zionist collaboration with the nazis, the transfer or ha'avara agreement. See this intro to the article:
On the afternoon of August 7, 1933, at 76 Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin, on a day when well-dressed Jews in Germany could not step into the street without fear, when laboring kibbutzniks in Palestine proudly swept the midday perspiration from their foreheads, when anxious German businessmen worried the next telegram would cancel yet another order for increasingly unsellable Reich goods, when Nazi organizers throughout Europe gleefully reviewed statistics on Jewish populations and Jewish assets within their midst, when Polish blackshirts viciously beat Jews in town squares, when ordinary jobless Germans wondered where they could find enough money for the next meal, when young Jewish boys in German schools were forced to stand painfully before their classmates as examples of detestable vermin, when defiant Jews across America and England raised their fists in anger proliferating their punishing anti-German boycott, when Jewish Palestinian exporters wondered nervously whether their biggest customer, Germany, would retaliate, when thousands of homeless German Jews existed as refugees and some in concentration camps, when the prospects for Jewry in Europe seemed over, on this fateful day in the first summer of the Hitler regime, an official delegation of four German and Palestinian Zionists and one independent Palestinian businessman were ushered into an Economics Ministry conference room. The Jews had been authorized by a combine of Jewish and Zionist bodies to negotiate with the Third Reich.
Ok so they negotiated. Then what?
And so it was done. The Transfer Agreement was created. There was no hard-copy contract with names penned at the bottom. The agreement was actually an official Reich decree, 54/33, issued three days later, on August 10, by the Reich Economics Ministry. The decree authorized the Zionists to create two transfer clearinghouses, one under the supervision of the German Zionist Federation in Berlin, one under the supervision of Anglo-Palestine's trust company in Palestine. The office in Tel Aviv was called Haavara Trust and Transfer Office Ltd. Often called Haavara Ltd. for short, this corporation was organized under the Palestinian commercial code and operated by business managers. Its stock was wholly owned by the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which was later renamed Bank Leumi.

Haavara, the Hebrew word for transfer, quickly became a synonym for transfer.

The bargain was this: Jews could leave Germany before being pauperized, and take some of their assets with them in the form of new German goods which the Zionist movement would then sell in Palestine and eventually throughout much of the world market.
I don't think that was all there was to the deal. I think in order to maximise their take, Jews had to go to Palestine. If this is the case then many Jews may have been trapped in Germany because they couldn't make a life in Palestine and they couldn't go elsewhere because of their asset situation.

Here's Lenni Brenner in Zionism in the Age of the Dictators:
The debate over the Zionist-Nazi pact continued angrily until 1935. The Ha’avara rapidly grew to become a substantial banking and trading house with 137 specialists in its Jerusalem office at the height of its activities. The regulations were always changing in response to Nazi pressure, but in essence the agreement was always the same: German Jews could put money into a bank inside Germany, which was then used to buy exports which were sold outside Germany, usually but not exclusively in Palestine. When the émigrés finally arrived in Palestine, they would receive payment for the goods that they had previously purchased after they had finally been sold. Fiscal ingenuity extended Ha’avara’s operations in many directions, but throughout its operation its attraction to German Jews remained the same: it was the least painful way of shipping Jewish wealth out of Germany. However, the Nazis determined the rules, and they naturally got worse with time; by 1938 the average user was losing at least 30 per cent and even 50 per cent of his money. Nevertheless, this was still three times, and eventually five times, better than the losses endured by Jews whose money went to any other destination.
Here's a supposedly neutral position from Wikipedia:
The Haavara Agreement was highly controversial. While it helped persecuted Jews emigrate from Germany, it provided a major market for German goods in Palestine. This helped Germany's weak economy at a time when many Jews were boycotting the country's goods. The following is a passage from an anti-Haavara circulated pamphlet in Palestine.

Until When Will the Yishuv Support Hitler? BOYCOTT Hitler's Products! BOYCOTT German Movies! Ivri! Remember What the German Did to Your Brother
There are two issues here really. One is to consider how much harm the boycott would have done to the Hitler regime and did the agreement help or hinder an optimal number of Jews fleeing Hitler?

Oh yes, here's that more on Edwin Black that I promised earlier. Here's the final paragraph of his article:
A few coldly realistic Zionist leaders in an office on Wilhelmstrasse were willing to make those decisions. It helped save a people. It helped create a state. Nonetheless, 25 years after the book was published and more than 75 years after the deal was negotiated, the nagging questions still haunts all those who confront the Transfer Agreement. Was it madness? Or was it genius?

And here's the blurb about the writer at the foot of the article:

The writer is the award-winning best-selling author of IBM and the Holocaust, and his first book, The Transfer Agreement, has now been rereleased in a 25th anniversary edition (Dialog Press), with an afterword by Abraham Foxman.

And the last word goes to Abe Foxman. Now there's a plot spoiler if ever there was one.

The goods in this supermarket have been liberated by the people of Honduras

September 24, 2009

Jews expelled from Spain.....again?

Well not quite. An Israeli team of scientists has been expelled from a Spanish solar energy competition because it was discovered that their university, Ariel, is based in the occupied West Bank. No biggie really. The establishment of civilian institutions of an occupier in territory it occupies is a war crime and so colluding with it in any way is also a war crime. See this from The Guardian:

Spain has expelled a group of Israeli scientists from a state-funded solar energy competition because they are based in occupied areas of the West Bank, it said today.

The decision to expel the team from the Ariel University Centre of Samaria from Solar Decathlon Europe, an international competition involving 20 universities, has provoked angry reactions in Israel. The team was one of 20 finalists in a competition to design solar-powered housing that is part-sponsored by the US energy department.

Spain is hosting the first European version of the event next year and claims ultimate say over who takes part.

"All the ministry has done is apply the policy of the European Union," a housing ministry spokesman said. "The EU does not recognise the occupation of the West Bank, which is where this university is."

But see how the article - by Giles Trimlett - continues through the complaint of the Israelis, which I'll skip, to the ludicrous allegations of antisemitism:
Jewish groups have recently claimed anti-semitism is on the rise in Spain.

A decision by El Mundo newspaper to publish an interview with the British historian and holocaust denier David Irving angered the Israeli ambassador, Raphael Schutz, who claimed it showed a lack of moral and ethical judgement.

He said he been subjected to racial abuse in Madrid, where three men shouted "dirty Jew," "Jew bastard" and "Jewish dog" at him.

A report this week by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League complained of what it claimed was a rise in anti-Semitism across Spain and, especially, in its mainstream media. "We are deeply concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-semitism in Spain, with more public expressions and greater public acceptance of classic stereotypes," said the league's director, Abraham H Foxman.

"Among the major European countries, only in Spain have we seen viciously anti-Semitic cartoons in the mainstream media, and street protests where Israel is accused of genocide and Jews are vilified and compared to Nazis."

Oh honestly! These pathetic allegations of antisemitism. I don't know whether to laugh or yawn. The yawn has it. It's just not funny any more.

Book launch 5 October 2009

Shameless plug for a friend's book:
From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949
Here's the lowdown on the launch:

Date: Monday 5 October
Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, 43 Upper Grosvenor St, London W1K 2NJ


Victor Kattan
Dr Brian Klug
Professor Mashood Baderin

Chair: Michel Abdel-Massih QC

This event is free, but guest-listing is compulsory for admittance. Please RSVP to or 07956 455 528.

The book will be on sale at the event at a special 33% discount price of £20.

And here's the blurb:

About the book

The Palestine-Israel conflict often raises questions about international law, related to both Israel's legitimacy and violent Palestinian resistance to occupation. This book is the first of its kind to study the international legal methods used to create Israel, shedding light on the conflict as it exists today.

Kattan shows that international law was both flouted and manipulated in order to create a Jewish homeland in 1948, and that this disregard for international legality caused much of the dispute and violence that exists today. The period of the British Mandate is analysed very closely, revealing the lobbying tactics that were dressed up as legal imperative and used to deny Palestinians rights to land and self-determination.

This revealing and painstakingly researched book is a must for students of international law and anyone interested in the origins of the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict.

Read a review of the book at:

You might find further details here.

See you on the 5th Oct then...

September 23, 2009

Obama: I am against the murder of innocents but for immunity for the murderers

Is there something jarring in combining these two pieces of information, published on the same day about the Obama administration?

The United Nations was born of the belief that the people of the world can live their lives, raise their families, and resolve their differences peacefully. And yet we know that in too many parts of the world, this ideal remains an abstraction -- a distant dream. We can either accept that outcome as inevitable, and tolerate constant and crippling conflict, or we can recognize that the yearning for peace is universal, and reassert our resolve to end conflicts around the world.

That effort must begin with an unshakeable determination that the murder of innocent men, women and children will never be tolerated. (President Obama, speech at the UN)

A top White House official told Jewish organizational leaders in an off-the-record phone call Wednesday that the U.S. strategy was to "quickly" bring the report -- commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council and carried out by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone -- to its "natural conclusion" within the Human Rights Council and not to allow it to go further, Jewish participants in the call told JTA.

The report said the U.N. fact-finding mission investigating Israel's conduct during the January 2009 war found evidence of Israeli war crimes. Israel has denied the allegations and said the report's mandate was biased -- an opinion echoed by U.S. officials.

The Obama administration is ready to use the U.S. veto at the U.N. Security Council to deal with any other "difficulties" arising out of the report, the White House official said Wednesday. The administration also has made clear to the Palestinian Authority that Washington is not pleased with a P.A. petition to bring the report's allegations against Israel to the International Criminal Court.( JTA )

Yes. This is becoming the Obama doctrine, talk like a lion, walk like a rat. What is shocking about the latest U.S. president is not that he lies. U.S. Presidents lie. It's their job. Bush lied. He lied about nuclear weapons in Iraq as well as about sundry other small and large matters. But in another sense he was as honest as as a straight arrow. He was a nasty and mean right-wing fanatic, and this is exactly how he came across. Obama is not a nasty and mean right-wing fanatic. He is merely the diligent and responsible steward of the empire, its upper class and their interests. For sure, this is a big improvement. The world might not have survived another Republican administration. But on the other hand, with Obama, it seems as if the distance between presentation and content has never been greater.

The battle over Honduras, with Obama, as usual, talking left and dancing to the music of the right

Manual Zelaya, the president of Honduras, deposed by a military coup with the blessing of the Honduras oligarchy and its rotten supreme court, is back in the country, having snicked into the Brazilian Embassy after a trek through the mountains. Zelaya started his political career is a kind of Ross Perot, but that is now water under the bridge as he has become the symbol of popular sovereignty and rejection of the oligarchic rule of Honduras. Obama could learn from Zelaya what it means to stand tall.

But taller still stand the people of Honduras:

As all this goes on, the Honduran National Front Against the Coup is consolidating the movement for a return to constitutional order and a constitutional assembly. It decided to boycott the elections and candidates are being met by angry demonstrations throughout the country.

Through a combination of spontaneous local organizing and an explicit decision from the Front, organizing efforts have spread from the capital city of Tegucigalpa into the departments. A rotating national committee with regional representatives was formed. On the Atlantic coast, the city of La Ceiba has been particularly active. Groups have formed to defend teachers arrested for suspending classes two days a week to participate in the resistance in La Ceiba, El Paraiso and other parts of the country. New women's organizations have also formed to join the resistance to the coup in western Honduras, and poor neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa have created their own organizations to coordinate community actions.

The National Agrarian Institute has been in the hands of anti-coup organizations since June 28 and demonstrations have paralyzed other government institutions for periods of time since the coup. A lively debate exists on how to step up the pressure through these actions while maintaining the commitment to non-violence and avoiding situations that could lead to violent repression and conflict. The defense of human rights is an on-going pillar of the movement, as demonstrators face increasing repression and arbitrary arrests. (Laura Carlsen, HufPo)

The coup government is responding to the escalating resistance with escalating brutality. The Brazilian Embassy is under siege, a curfew has been imposed and the army attacked the people gathered to welcome the President, apparently killing two protesters and wounding scores. Reports of brutality abound. Brazil moved for an emergency meeting of the security council, upstaging Obama's first address to the UN. Latin America is firmly united against the coup, and most of world agrees. Mo country has recognized the coup. (I have mistakenly claimed that Israel alone so far recognized the coup government. While common interests suggest that there are some ties between the golpistas and Israel, e.g. their lead lobbyist in Washington is also the lawyer of the Israel Project, there seem to be no basis for the claim of official recognition.)

But there is one country that has gone out of its way to help the coup leaders last so long. That is the government of the U.S. Officially, aid was cut and support for the restoration of Zelaya expressed. The White house did not recognize the coup and threatens not to recognize the elections. Yet although Zelaya visited Washington six times, Obama has never given him a meeting. The State Department has yet to condemn the massive repression unleashed against the people, and the numerous human right abuses, including the killing of non-violent protesters. Instead, Hillary Clinton repeatedly called for "calm," effectively asking the protesters to stop protesting and thus let the coup stand. More importantly, although the flow of US funds to Honduras have been squeezed, it has not stopped. As Bill Conroy writes,
...since the earliest days of the coup regime in Honduras, the U.S. has done little more than repackage and rebroadcast the same aid cuts to appease the media and to complement its rhetorical position of being against the coup. But behind the scenes, the economic effect of the aid cuts has been little more than symbolic posturing. (Narconews)
Moreover, the IMF and the IDB, institutions that do Washington bidding, approved loans to Honduras both in preparation for the coup and immediately after it, giving the golpistas a lifeline without which they could have survived so far.

The Obama administration is talking through both sides of its mouth. There is much to rejoice here. The very fact that the White House does not support the coup and is slowly ratcheting up the pressure in response to international pressure is an example of how far the U.S empire has fallen in terms of hegemonic power. As part of the necessary repackaging of the U.S. as a smiling and avuncular Uncle Sam, the kind of uncle that you might call occasionally to baby sit your kids (and not fear them drowned in the bathtub), Obama is forced to follow rather than lead the governments of Latin America. Yet the administration is doing its bit to buy the Honduras oligarchy the time needed to defeat the popular revolt and maintain its power. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to work.

Now, if you read the Washington Post, you know that the reason why Obama cannot stand for what is right in Honduras the way he has been pushing Netanyahu hard on freezing settlements is the powerful Honduras Lobby. No, wait, I made this up.

But with the teachers on strike, protests continuing without respite, the National Front boycotting the elections, the people radicalized and learning to rise up and isolation deepening, there is a chance that the Honduras oligarchy will be the next domino to fall. (as always, there is also chance for counter-revolution and betrayal. )

Here is an interesting item and interview. The the first minutes can be sent to your representative so they have an idea what political courage means. (There are a few troubling statements by the interviewed journalist, note e.g. 5:02 on the timeline, about which it would be useful to know more, but might be another example, as was the case with the riots in Iran, how ethnic tensions will continue to be used to divide and defeat solidarity.)

Here some more interesting reporting from the latest events:

September 22, 2009

Be careful what you wish for...

There was a flurry of letters on Palestine in The Guardian on the weekend. I wouldn't have noticed them but Tony Greenstein mentioned on his blog one that he had published on Saturday:
The reaction of Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the United Nation’s Goldstone Inquiry (Israel rejects UN criticism over Gaza war, Guardian 17 September) speaks volumes. Using biblical metaphor, the report was apparently ‘conceived in sin and is the product of a union between propaganda and bias.’

The clear message from Israel’s very own propaganda chief is that despite being authored by a liberal Zionist and former South African judge, Richard Goldstone, the Inquiry’s findings are motivated by anti-Semitism. There was a time when such accusations might have had some political purchase but those days have long since gone.

The historic vote at the Trade Union Congress this week to support a boycott of Israeli goods tells its own story. No section of British society was as supportive of Zionism as that of British trade unionism which saw socialism being put into practice in Israel’s kibbutzim.

Mark Regev speaks about bias and he is correct. Just as those who condemned the pogroms against Europe’s Jews were biased against anti-Semitism, so those who were opposed to the one-sided war against the Palestinians of Gaza were biased. Bias in favour of justice is surely no offence?

Supporters of Israel seem to be in denial. For 6 months before the Gazan invasion they honed their media strategies and trained their internet warriors but no amount of hasbara can substitute for pictures of UN schools and ambulances being bombed with white phosphorous and dead children. A war crime is not diminished by a silver tongue.

The reality is that the Israeli army has refused to countenance any criticism or inquiry. They first barred reporters from seeing what was happening in Gaza, then they banned the UN Inquiry from entering Gaza, then they derided the reports of their own soldiers as to what had happened and ignored criticism of the activities of the military rabbis. Now they have turned their fire upon the messenger.

Those who learn nothing from the past are condemned to repeat its mistakes.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein
Words, that is whole sentences in italics show what the Guardian cut from the letter.

Anyway, there was a letter on Friday whose author wished for a "law-abiding Israel":

Richard Goldstone's report has reached its conclusions: both Israel and Hamas committed crimes contrary to international law. The conclusions are, however, fruitless. This report was rejected by Israeli and diaspora Jews even before it had been written. Israel must take on board the recommendations made to ensure that, if further conflicts arise, they will adhere to international law. British Jews should wish for a law-abiding Israel, and a restoration of the morality which we so proudly speak of.

Zak Golombeck

Well Nicholas Jacobs wasn't going to have another Jew or anyone else speak for him:
Since when can a report be regarded as "fruitless" (Letters, 18 October) simply because it is rejected by a party it finds guilty? And what gives Zak Golombeck the right to speak on behalf of "diaspora Jews"? This diaspora Jew calls not so much for a "law-abiding Israel" as for its dismantling as a Zionist state. As for "the morality which we so proudly speak of"– any Jew who can still speak like that is out of touch or a hypocrite.

Nicholas Jacobs


I couldn't help noticing that in some ways these two guys may not be as distant from each other as they think and since I have only just seen the letters I have only just written to The Guardian to say so:
Dear Sir

Zak Golombeck should be careful what he wishes for as his demand for a "law-abiding Israel" may be closer than he realises to Nicholas Jacobs's belief that the zionist entity, Israel, should be dismantled.

Israel's existence is predicated on colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing and racist laws, not to mention relentless aggression. All of these things are illegal under international law so a "law-abiding Israel" would be no Israel at all.

Good riddance, I say.

Yours faithfully

Mark Elf
It's the height of bad manners to publish your own letter before the person/people it's addressed to have had a chance to read it but they don't usually publish letters that have come so long after the piece or pieces they are referring to have appeared so I don't feel too bad about it.

September 19, 2009

'Eid Mubarak and Shana Tova

The Jewish and Muslim holidays decide to meet this year, as they occasionally do, which gives us occasion to wish 'Eid Mubarak and Shana Tova to everybody at once. May this year nurse the damaged soul and draw tears from the hardened heart.

Our special thoughts to our friends and all Palestinians forced to celebrate 'Rosh Hashana' in reverse during this Ramadan, thanks to the Israeli habit of enforcing special holidays "closure" on the West Bank and Gaza during Jewish holidays. To paraphrase my grandmother, may those who invented this perverse practice choke on their honeyed apple. Curses sound better in Yiddish.

To everybody else, and especially to the steadfast people of Bil'in and to all their friends from all over the world, 'Eid Mubarak and Shana Tova.

(The image is loaned from the Jews of Lebanon.)

Obama opposes justice for the Palestinians

That's according to today's Ha'aretz:
The Obama administration sharply criticized a UN report Friday alleging that Israel committed multiple war crimes in its Gaza war this year. The State Department statement ended nearly a week of muted reactions to findings already rejected by Israel.

The State Department said the conclusions of a UN commission headed by South African Justice Richard Goldstone were unfair to Israel and did not fully deal with the role in the conflict of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. It said the United States objected to a recommendation that Israeli actions be referred to the International Criminal Court.

I don't think regulars here will have harboured many or any illusions about Obama's position on the racist war criminals of the State of Israel. The US's long awaited statement on the Goldstone report should shatter any illusions anyone had about Obama's support for the basic human rights of zionism's most numerous victims, the Palestinians.

Maybe Goldstone will now realise that throwing a bone to zionism and its main imperial ally in the form of his inappropriate criticism of Hamas over the assault on Gaza merely sends them into a feed frenzy. This is yet another lesson about how appeasing the racist war criminals of the State of Israel doesn't pay but will it be learned?

September 18, 2009

UK Firefighters fight phosphorous

The UK's Trades Union Congress, the representative body of the Trades Union movement is supporting BDS against the racist war criminals of Israel. I know this because johng in the comments pointed me to Lenin's Tomb where it says this:
I am ready to stand corrected, but I think this is historic. The motion approved is particularly notable because a proffered soft-Zionist amendment attempting to introduce some spurious 'balance' and 'moderation' into the motion was defeated. The motion condemns the attack on Gaza, calls for TUC support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and is harshly critical of the racist Israeli trade union federation Histradut for having backed the Gaza aggression. Given that previous efforts to raise the boycott issue within national trade unions have often been followed by retreat under sustained counterattacks and legal threats by Israel's apologists, it is significant that the support for a boycott among trade unionists would appear to have increased. This is undoubtedly a result of the criminal attack on Gaza earlier this year. If this is actually implemented, it means the BDS campaign has real social weight behind it. It also means that Zionists of all shades are about to throw a massive tantrum.
Historic huh? Don't be ridiculous. Israel is a state whose existence is predicated on the most heinous of war crimes going back at least to the first half of last century. How could support from the TUC for BDS only be coming as late as the last year of the first decade of the 21st century?

I know, we'll consult Tony Greenstein, he knows about these things. He'll put paid to this "historic" hyperbole. What's his headline?

Historic vote at British Trades Union Congress Calls for Boycott of Israeli Goods & ‘Review’ of Histadrut Links

Hmm, perhaps it is historic after all.

September 17, 2009

Remembering Sabra and Shatila

Mahmoud Darwish: "We love life whenever we can"

We love life whenever we can.
We dance and throw up a minaret or raise palm trees for the violets growing between two martyrs.
We love life whenever we can.
We steal a thread from a silk-worm to weave a sky and a fence for our journey.
We open the garden gate for the jasmine to walk into the street as a beautiful day.
We love life whenever we can.
Wherever we settle we grow fast-growing plants, wherever we settle we harvest a murdered man.
We blow into the flute the colour of far away, of far away, we draw on the dust in the passage the neighing of a horse.
And we write our names in the form of stones. Lightning brighten the night for us, brighten the night a little.
We love life whenever we can
(translation, shameless reality)

September 16, 2009

In the interests of balance

Angry Arab's, well, angry at the Goldstone report about the racist war criminals of the State of Israel being, well, racist war criminals. See, it's all about "balance":
"The report called Israel’s military assault on Gaza “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”" Of course, all reports on Israeli war crimes now have to condemn the victims. It is called a balance. If Judge Goldstone were to write a report about Nazi war crimes, he would have considered the Warsaw ghetto uprising a war crime too.
Uh oh, let's dust off that "working definition" again.

This was my flower for the occupier

September 15, 2009

This is Zionism

NYT, 9/13: "A settler tosses wine at a Palestinian woman on Shuhada Street in Hebron. The approach of some settlers towards neighboring Palestinians, especially around Nablus in the north and Hebron in the south, has often been one of contempt and violence."

September 13, 2009

People not Places (Invincible)

From Invincible and Emergence, and the lyrics are also available, with annotation.

A color revolution in Washington?

In those days, there used to be a joke,
why was there never a military coup in Washington? Because there is no U.S. embassy there.
Coups are generally out today. They lack legitimacy. The CIA and pentagon learned to mimic the left in order to produce effective coups that that look like civil rights movements. Democratic revolutions, with angry masses in the street supporting this or that plutocrats taking power, paid with money from the N.E.D., the Soros foundation, and other such outlets, the Tulip revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Velvet revolution in Georgia, The Orange revolution in Ukraine, the Cedar revolution in Lebanon, the failed coup against Chavez, etc.

As neo-liberalism is slowly erasing the difference between the Third World and the heart of the U.S, not by the development of the former but by the devolution of the latter, it was just a question of time until the same tactics would have to be used in the homeland.

Obama's elections, or more accurately the oversize hopes that voters invested in Obama, called for a muscular reaction by the capitalist rear guard, lest we get any ideas. Thus was launched the coalition of money and nativist racism, whose purpose is less to keep Obama in check (he has superb self-control) but to discourage his voters and reduce their expectations.

Here is a great Tim Wise interview on the connection between racism and the defense of neo-liberalism in the U.S.:

This is not yet a color revolution. It is not necessary yet, given that Obama is no Chavez. But just in case one is needed down the road, the tools of the trade are being honed.
Tens of thousands of conservative protesters, many complaining that the nation is racing toward socialism, massed outside the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, angrily denouncing President Obama's health-care plan and other initiatives as threats to the Constitution.
The crowd -- loud, animated and sprawling -- gathered at the West Front of the Capitol after a march along Pennsylvania Avenue NW from Freedom Plaza. Invocations of God and former president Ronald Reagan by an array of speakers drew loud cheers that echoed across the Mall. On a windy, overcast afternoon, hundreds of yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flags flapped in the breeze. ( Washington Post)

BTW, the comment page for (one of) Tim wise's video deserves to be recorded for posterity:

dawgfan24348 (1 week ago)
Racisim more like not wanting the goverment to ruin healthcare like they did to everything else
plokijpoiu (1 week ago)
lol you white guys who talk that white america bravado are ridiculous. chances are you guys are tucked away safe in the suburbs hidden behind your computer talking that white power shit. i swear you guys have to be the most coward ass punks to ever walk this earth.
nba2020 (1 week ago) Show Hide
glad i live in canada
fumetti (1 week ago) Show Hide
Tim Wise I will destroy in any argument. Bring me that piece of shit.
nba2020 (1 week ago) Show Hide
why dont you like him, because he told the truth?
stevencool104 (1 week ago) Show Hide
He thinks that "White racial resentment" is a bad thing. For all that has been taken from us, partly from our own blindness, partly from the treachery of Jew aliens like him, we should realize that it is completely acceptable and should be nurtured. Not nipped in the bud by an Jew media implanted jerk response. White Pride World Wide.
MorningStarIX (2 weeks ago) Show Hide
You're just neo-Marxist Jew trash.
Go wander the desert or something, Judah.
MorningStarIX (2 weeks ago) Show Hide
Anti-racist is just a code word for anti-White.
Tim Wise, Noel Ignatiev, that half-gorilla professor - they openly call for the extermination of White people and any form of unity White people have.
Jews, niggers, spics, homos - we GIVE everything to them, and this is how they repay us - they call for our deaths and then have the nerve to call us the haters for merely responding to what they're doing.
It's time to wake up and UNITE. Things could be so much better for us.
nba2020 (1 week ago) Show Hide
dang, coulda hid the racism a just a little bit, no?
MorningStarIX (2 weeks ago) Show Hide
Tim Wise is just neo-Marxist ARA trash.
Note he doesn't deny that he's a Jew, and that's of course why he hates White people.
"You Jew-communist-traitor-pig!" said the Nazi.
"Hey! I'm not a PIG!" replied the Jew.

September 12, 2009

Watching the UN

Here's a group, an NGO no less, that I've never really paid any attention to before. In fact I can't really recall if I'd ever heard of it. It's called UN Watch and it looks to be a zionist organisation founded by "Ambassador Morris B. Abram, the former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva". Here's how it describes itself:
UN Watch is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter.
It claims that it:
believes in the United Nations' mission on behalf of the international community to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and provide for a more just world.
and yet it:
notes that the disproportionate attention and unfair treatment applied by the UN toward Israel over the years offers an object lesson (though not the only one) in how due process, equal treatment, and other fundamental principles of the UN Charter are often ignored or selectively upheld.
And that's just the website. What brought it to my attention is that apparently the UN is going to publish a report on Israel's assault on Gaza late last and early this year. This UN accredited NGO is worried that the report might cause antisemitism by exposing Israel's sheer wanton criminality. So what should an NGO do when it believes that the UN is being unduly partial to the victims of atrocities by a colonial settler racist state? Run to the UK's Zionist Federation of course.

I kid you not. Here's the Jewish Chronicle:
A United Nations investigation into the Gaza conflict will be used as a political weapon to undermine Israel and could lead to an upsurge of international antisemitism, the head of a Geneva NGO has warned.

Hillel Neuer, director of the highly respected UN Watch, has said the group is preparing to challenge the report, which is due to be formally presented to the UN Human Rights Commission at the end of the month.

It is widely believed that the report will result in calls for Israel to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes.

Although the document, which was being completed this week, is also expected to criticise Hamas rocket attacks on Negev towns and villages, this is unlikely to be “the big story”, Mr Neuer argued, considering the allegations likely to be levelled against Israel.

Mr Neuer, in London to address the Zionist Federation’s annual meeting, has repeatedly questioned the impartiality of the fact-finding mission, headed by South African judge and war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.

Mr Neuer’s claim that some of the mission’s members, including London School of Economics law professor Christine Chinkin, had pre-judged Israeli guilt was recently dismissed by the UN’s Human Rights Commission.

Mr Neuer said that the fact Judge Goldstone was Jewish was “a major factor in him being chosen to lead the inquiry. There is a danger that this will be used to show that the report is balanced.”

Well it's a good thing that UN Watch:
believes in the United Nations' mission on behalf of the international community to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and provide for a more just world.
because if it didn't it might have their spokesperson, Hillel Neuer :
Describing the UN as “an upside down, absurd and false world”
And then this believer in the UN's war on war and fight for a just world gets seriously weird about Judge Goldstone saying that:
Goldstone is not a stupid man but I think he believes the ends justify the means, that what he is doing is bringing peace to the Middle East. He is wrong.
What ends? What means? What's he on about? He continues:
Israeli culpability has already been assumed by some UN officials. Human rights chief Navi Pillay has already announced that if the inquiry found evidence of war crimes, they should be investigated by the International Court in the Hague.

UN Watch, whose causes also include Darfur and political prisoners in Cuba, was preparing for the report to be turned into a “snowball to take Israel to the International Court”, warned Mr Neuer. “It will be a political weapon to target Israel and stop it protecting its rights. It will bring forward a campaign to demonise it and isolate it.”
And then Hillel Neuer asks what he calls, "the main question":
The main question.......was why Israel was not treated equally at the UN. Why, he asked, were some 80 per cent of the Human Rights Commission’s statements on humanitarian abuse about Israel and the Palestinians when there were “far worse examples” worldwide?
It might be a quality thing but is that really the main question? Shouldn't the main question be, how does an organisation that seems to be dedicated to providing diplomatic cover for Israel's criminality get to be an accredited NGO at the United Nations?

Actually there is another question. This Hillel guy says that a report exposing Israel's war crimes will cause antisemitism. I don't think it will. If Israel's crimes are exposed and denounced by an enquiry team headed by a Jewish guy, why should that cause antisemitism? Surely it would more likely cause anti-Jewish feeling if the crimes were not exposed in a judicial/diplomatic framework. But what do I know?

September 11, 2009

Colonial Tel Aviv

The public letter to the TIFF says

In 2009, TIFF announced that it would inaugurate its new City to City program with a focus on Tel Aviv. According to program notes by Festival co-director and City to City programmer Cameron Bailey, “The ten films in this year’s City to City programme will showcase the complex currents running through today’s Tel Aviv. Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2009, Tel Aviv is a young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity.”

The emphasis on ‘diversity’ in City to City is empty given the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program. Furthermore, what this description does not say is that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine’s main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries, including Canada. Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city’s past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto. ( Indiwire)

That hits home, but there is more. Tel-Aviv has an international reputation based on the myths the tells itself about its own identity and history. Tel-Aviv is the opposite of the settlements, the opposite of crazy Jerusalem, of the fanatics of Hebron, it is an oasis of sanity and tolerance. Meir Wieselthier, an Israeli poet, expressing the “anti-war” Tel-Aviv ethos, once said that he would only take up arms if a foreign army were about to cross the Yarkon (a river at the northern side of Tel-Aviv). The singular most important idea about Tel-Aviv is that it is innocent. It is not on occupied land (it was supposedly built on sandy dunes). It has nothing to do with the fanaticism that drives the violence of the occupation. It is secular, young, hedonistic, worldly and diverse. Perhaps it is a tad too materialistic. But when the alternative is the spirituality of a Baruch Goldstein, even crass materialism looks awfully benign.

It’s a good story with fetching characters. But it is also false. Let’s take the issue of diversity first. Although 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinians, only 4.2% of Tel-Aviv residents are. For a major city, that is an impressive lack of diversity. Moreover, almost all these Palestinians live in a few segregated neighborhoods in the far end of Jaffa, mostly Ajame. Excluding these marginal and poor neighborhoods at the edge of the city, Tel-Aviv is almost completely free of Arabs. As such, the city no doubt constitutes a demographic miracle. The below-margin-of-error percentage of Arabs in this “diverse,” bustling, Mediterranean metropolis is lower than in Paris, Geneva, London, or Brooklyn.

That "diversity" makes Tel Aviv a rare example of successful ethnic cleansing. Until its destruction, Jaffa was an important hub city in the Arab Mediterranean. Today it is home to less than 1% of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, a marginal and isolated community. Jaffa was conquered by the Jewish paramilitary organizations in 1948 and over 60,000 of its residents were forced to leave as as a result of the shelling of the city. They were literally “thrown into the sea” and had to sail, mostly to Gaza. The conquerors then proceeded to bulldoze 75% of the city. The Ajame and Jebaliah neighborhoods were left standing, with less than 4,000 Palestinians allowed to remain. The area was left to deteriorate and become a dumping ground for municipal waste and a zone for crime and drugs. Moreover, the houses were confiscated and the remaining Palestinians became tenants of the state housing agency, Amidar, which neglected the properties and even refused to let the residents upgrade them on their own. The final turn of the screw in this cruel tale came with the new millennium. As Tel Aviv enjoyed a finance driven speculative real-estate boom, Ajame became attractive for real-estate developers. The obstacle was, of course, how to get rid of existing tenants. Amidar’s ingenious solution was to impose fines on the tenants for illegally upgrading and repairing their homes, and then offer to forgive the debt in return for evacuation. (See Jonathan Cook, Jaffa Renewal plan aims at eviction)

Another part of town, the Old City, ethnically cleansed to the last, and most of its urban space destroyed, leaving only the outer wall and a few Christian landmarks, was turned into a touristic and nightlife attraction. The original Arab street names have been erased, and the Tel-Aviv municipality is happy to let you know that “the alleys of Old Jaffa are named after the signs of the Zodiac and it is possible to find there artists galleries and Judaica shops, jewelry and art from top ranking artists”.( Read that touristic blurb in vain for any mention of Jaffa’s past and its demise. Napoleon’s visit is the only historical event worthy of the tourist’s knowledge; the mark of the fleeting footsteps of a great White Man being more important than the whole of local history. Not mentioned is that Napoleon’s stay included a thirty hour long butchery and rape of the local civilian population followed by the massacre of 4.500 prisoners of war. That is not history, apparently since it did not happen to European Jews.

The artist galleries, property of dispossessed Palestinians, were distributed by the state to Israeli artists. You need to file an application to get one. This is one of the ways in which the intellectuals and bohemians of Tel-Aviv have been inducted, made accomplices in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and given a solid stake in the preservation of a Jewish State. Sooner or later someone will make a list of these towering moral lights, most of them probably self-identifying as members of the “peace camp”, who accepted these gifts. But I’ll mention one famous name as an emblem. Dan Ben-Amotz was a first generation bohemian and writer (he was member of the elite Palmach unit in 1948) who in many ways typified the secular Tel-Aviv-ish brand identity and even played an important role in fashioning it. He was a handsome celebrity, went to Hollywood, befriended Marlon Brando, acted in Israeli films, including one of the most critical ever made in Israel about Zionism (Uri Zohar’s A Hole in the Moon), wrote long profane novels about his sexual exploits, pioneered the Tel Aviv nightlife and club scene, studied Hebrew slang and profanities, was “anti-war” before it was fashionable, ridiculed Israel’s shibboleths in the name of individual expression and put the ‘carnal’ in “make love not war.” Nationalist and religious fanaticism was as meaningful to his persona as coconuts are to the Inuit diet. His first wife was Christian and his signature dress code was an Arab galabiyeh. In addition to being a fixture of Tel-Aviv and a symbol of its anarchic and individualistic streak, Ben-Amotz also took part in creating the Tel-Aviv myth. In 1980 he co-wrote a play that celebrated the establishment of first “Hebrew City.” Yosef Rachelski, an Israeli cultural critic, called him one of the two most influential cultural icons of Israel in the late sixties, the other being Moshe Dayan.

Ben-Amotz lived in an Arab house in Old Jaffa overlooking the mediterranean sea; he also owned valuable commercial property in the area that the conquerors destroyed. After his death a scandal broke out involving rumors about his sexual mores, not always consensual. But there was never a scandal about his real estate transactions, also apparently not always consensual. Ben Amotz’s irreverent and insouciant enjoyment of the racist order he mocked is a symbol of secular and fun loving Tel-Aviv’s relation to the apartheid system of israel.

As architect Sharon Rotbard, who wrote a magisterial book excavating Tel-Aviv's hidden story, and whose insights I plunder here with abandon, claims,

Tel aviv was not born from the sand. It was born in Jaffa. Yet, its attitude to Jaffa reminds one of the Christian attitude to Judaism, including contradictory violent elements of birth and matricide, continuity and separation, inheritance and appropriation, erasure and masking, guilt and exculpation. From the moment the first Jewish neighborhood Neve Tzedek was born from the womb of the “Bride of the Sea,” in the eighties of the nineteenth century, Tel-Aviv never ceased to flee from Jaffa and to persecute Jaffa. The war of [creating a] “white city,” over conquering the symbolic and historic space of the metropolis, is the war of Tel-Aviv against Jaffa and her biological daughters and step-daughter….to create that Tel-Aviv of street and grocery shop and invent the normality of a house, a courtyard and a staircase, Tel-Aviv eradicated a whole [urban] space. It conquered Jaffa and her daughters, emptied them of their residents, eradicated neighborhoods, villages, roads and landscapes, destroyed places, houses, streets, public monuments…In doing so, Tel-Aviv erased the memory of Jaffa. The war did not end with the 1948 conquest and exile of the residents. It continues to this very day. Although Jaffa is a dead city, Tel-Aviv still tortures her corpse…From its inception as a city separate from Jaffa, and in its cultural, ethnic and now historical construction as a “white city,” Tel-Aviv constituted itself through its opposition to Jaffa, as separation from Jaffa, as the dialectical negation of Jaffa. For Jaffa, this dialectic relation was no less fateful. While Tel-Aviv built and wrote itself, it also destroyed and erased Jaffa, fashioning it as its own negation – a city of the night, neglected, criminal, dirty, derelict, and black. (White City Black City [Hebrew], p.126 )

Finally, there is the question of dates and origins. Where to begin? What to choose as year zero? What does it mean, for example, to tell the history of the Americas from 1492? What is the meaning of 1909 as the date of the “beginning” of Tel Aviv? What exactly was born in 1909? Was it the point of departure of the urban habitat that is today Tel-Aviv-Yafo? No, since Jaffa has always been there, and Jaffa has been included in Tel-Aviv-Yafo, the history of urbanism in the area does not start in 1909. Was it the beginning of Jewish habitation? No. Leaving aside why a “diverse” modern city should be celebrated based of a single ethnic identity, Jews have always been residents of Jaffa. Was it then the first organized Jewish settlement in the area? No. Neve Tzedek was established in 1887 by Palestinian Jews from Jaffa. Kerem Hateimanim was established in 1905. Jews from Jaffa and from Yemen established Jewish neighborhoods near Jaffa because Jaffa was overcrowded. These Jewish suburbs of Jaffa were incorporated later into Tel-Aviv and allowed to become derelict slums as symbolic punishment for their guilty proximity to Jaffa, geographically as well as culturally. In the same period Muslims established a largely Muslim neighborhood to the north of Jaffa, Manshiyeh, that was completely erased in 1947 (a single mosque is all that remains today, near a parking lot called "the conquerors").

1909 is an arbitrary date, chosen, according to Sharon Rotbard, mostly because of the convenient existence of a commemorative photograph of the land ruffle for the establishment of the neighborhood Ahuzat-Bait. What distinguishes this neighborhood, not only from Jaffa and the Palestinian villages but also from the older Jewish neighborhoods, is that it was established by white European Jews. It is on the basis of this distinction that the history of Tel-Aviv was written and transformed into a myth of a city created on sands, separate from the natives, and therefore paradoxically pure and innocent of the bloody history of apartheid. The principles of segregation that would lead to an apartheid regime thus becomes the foundation of the claim of innocence relative to that apartheid. Tel-Aviv is innocent because it is a pure European city! Events celebrating the 1909 birth of Tel-Aviv are thus not only inappropriate homage to the financial capital of an apartheid state. They are not only attempts to white wash the massacre of Gaza. They are also opportunities for legitimizing colonialism through the commemoration of the arrival of white Europeans to the orient. By celebrating Tel-Aviv, and especially by claiming the right to separate the city from the conflict and thus confirm its image of innocence and “diversity”, Western curators are able to pay homage to colonialism and justify its role in their own societies.

On whose side is Obama on healthcare?

What will healthcare reform ultimately be? Did Obama's speech mark a new phase of progressive advance or a capitulation?

You can try to understand what Obama said. You can ask the people who get paid telling you what you should believe.

Or you can ask the capitalists themselves. They do answer:

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Health-insurer shares advanced Thursday after President Barack Obama laid out his proposals for health-care reform in a speech that analysts said didn't add any new dangers to managed care companies' bottom lines. ( Marketwatch)

Of course, capitalists can get it wrong too. And they may change their mind next week. Still, I think it is a good idea to take them seriously, because, unlike the president, money talks through a single side of its mouth.

The war vultures train for the next big war (Iran)

Senior Administration officials and Congressional leaders will address hundreds of leaders of national Jewish organizations and Jewish communities from across the nation at the National Jewish Leadership Advocacy Day on Iran on Thursday, September 10.

The National Jewish Leadership Advocacy Day is organized by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Iran, which includes UJC/The Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, as well as numerous national Jewish organizations and friends of the community.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader; Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Rep. John A. Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Leader; Rep. Eric I. Cantor (R-VA), House Republican Whip; Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chair; and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Republican Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee, have already confirmed their participation.

Reflecting support for President Obama’s position that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms capacity is “unacceptable,” this Advocacy Day is intended to urge implementation of strong economic and diplomatic measures directed at the Iranian regime and the expeditious adoption of key legislative initiatives now before Congress, including the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act.

National and community leaders are meeting with members of Congress because of the grave threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to fundamental U.S. national security interests and to world peace. They will encourage the Administration to take full advantage of the tools provided by the proposed legislation in order to advance the international effort to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear arms capability.

According to the organizers of the Advocacy Day, a government that has so little regard for human life, truth, and human rights – as does the current Iranian regime – must not be entrusted to possess the most powerful weapons known to humankind.

Participating delegations represent most major metropolitan areas from across the country, including Los Angeles and San Diego, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, the Greater New York City area, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Dallas and the Greater Washington D.C. area. (UJC Press release)

September 09, 2009

On the Gaza Freedom March

As you know, the Gaza Freedom March organized by CODEPINK based on Norman Finkelstein's idea ran into some internal disputes. Finkelstein left the campaign with a door slamming. It is worth reading Max Ajl comments, as well as Pulsemedia's summary of the prequel to the latest Now, Finkelstein explains the issue thus:
During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed "the political context" was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months. Because it drags in contentious issues that--however precious to different constituencies--are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal

At the heart of the dispute is the Statement of Context that was recently added to the campaign's call. The statement was the result of negotiations between the campaign's organizing committee and Omar Barghouti and Haidar Eid. After the statement was published both have endorsed the march without reservations and their endorsement paved the way for many more organizations that have had reservations.

Now, the question is, is there anything "sectarian" about Barghouti's and Eid's criticism? To help you make your own judgment, I include at the end of this post the text of the first letter the two wrote to the Gaza Freedom March endorsers. In my opinion it is a model of constructive criticism and engagement.

I jointly wrote a piece on EI that explains the issue in more details. You can read it here:

For reference, here is what the new context document says about the right of return:

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel's creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194 (Statement of Context).

And here is the piece about BDS:

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

As one can easily see, march participants are not required to endorse neither BDS nor the Right of Return. The context document is descriptive, expressing respect for the history of Gaza's refugees and for Palestinian non-violent resistance that includes BDS.

Max Ajl sums up the issue very well

The fracture within the movement was essentially over the degree of partnership we were to have with the people in Palestine--whether the vision would be a shared, compromise vision, or one conceived here, given our judgment of the tactics/framing needed for success in American/Western society. (Jewbonics)

It should me mentioned that many of the people "here" agreed with the people "there," that tactical decisions cannot be made here in ways that undermine the Palestinian liberation struggle there.

These kinds of disputes taste bitter, but the good news is that the march is going forward now with the enthusiastic blessing of Palestinian civil society. So, consider going, or helping.

You missed the civil rights struggle in Mississippi because you were too young (insert alternative struggle for your country)? Here's your second chance. Don't miss it again.

Below is for reference Barghouti and Eid's first letter.

Dear signatories of the Gaza Freedom March statement,

[we are addressing you, all in BCC, upon seeing your name on the list of endorsers of this March]

We think most Palestinians will agree that the intentions behind this call are noble and that there is clear moral courage involved in endorsing this freedom march. We think that this initiative, "inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the encroachments of Israel's annexationist wall," is worthy of the widest international support.

We do have a few concerns and constructive suggestions, though, and we want to share them with you:

1) The statement omits -- perhaps inadvertently -- the necessary legal and political context of the illegal siege, Israel 's 42-year-old military occupation and 61-year-old denial of the UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian refugees, who constitute more than 75% of the population of the occupied Gaza Strip. This is a substantial oversight, as the siege is not just about suffering and humanitarian needs, but political rights, above all the right to self determination, as stipulated in UN principles. The only mention of the occupation comes towards the very end, without an explicit call to end it: "The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would be unsustainable." This is equivalent to issuing a statement in the 1980s calling for action in solidarity with the South African majority without mentioning ending apartheid.

2) From all the available information, this whole idea of a non-violent march in Gaza against the siege was conceived and developed without due consultation with Palestinian civil society representatives (elected parliamentarians, leading academics/intellectuals, experienced activists, trade unionists, women leaders, student leaders, etc.), particularly those in Gaza. While the document talks about "joining ranks with the people of Gaza ," in reality, the Palestinian people in Gaza are the ones being invited here to join ranks with predominantly international figures, going to Gaza in an otherwise deeply appreciated show of solidarity and moral courage. This is not to undermine the idea; it just highlights the fact that the proposal comes from outside without taking into consideration the aspirations, concerns and express needs of the Palestinian people under siege in Gaza .

One obvious example of such needs is for international civil society to apply pressure on the Egyptian authorities to reopen the Rafah Crossing to allow freedom of movement and partially relieve the humanitarian crisis, in such a way that does not help Israel claim that its effective control over, and therefore occupation of, Gaza has ended. The marches, many people in Gaza believe, should aim at breaking the siege in a way that will allow people to move freely out of Gaza . Rafah is currently the only exit Gaza has to the external world; opening the Erez/Beit Hanoun checkpoint would – obviously -- still not allow freedom of movement as Israel alone decides who exits and under what circumstances and conditions, as the case was before the full application of the siege. We, therefore, think that pressure to reopen the Rafah Crossing is crucial and deserves to be highlighted in the statement. The fact that Egypt has managed to open the Crossing so many disparate days already shows that it can and that it is vulnerable to pressure. Accordingly, simultaneous marches should, in our view, be organized to Erez as well as the Rafah Crossing.

3) While over-emphasizing Gandhian non-violence, the statement ignores the most effective, home grown, non-violent form of resistance advocated by most Palestinians today: BDS. This omission is particularly perplexing given that BDS is not only the most prevalent non-violent form of resistance today; it is inspired by a century of Palestinian civil struggle and more recently by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa . Furthermore, there were no efforts made by the initiators of this proposal to coordinate or consult with the BDS National Committee, BNC, the umbrella group of the most important Palestinian political parties, trade unions, mass movements and NGOs that is guiding and leading the global BDS movement.

4) Palestinians in Gaza are referred to as "the people of Gaza" or the "population of Gaza," inadvertently stripping them of their national identity and, as a result, giving credence to the Israeli division of the Palestinians into THE Palestinians, meaning those in the West Bank, "Israeli Arabs," some abstract refugees, and "the people of Gaza." The people in Gaza are only indirectly referred to as part of the Palestinian people. This could adversely affect their right to self determination as an integral part of the people of Palestine .

5) Some of the most impressive popular resistance actions in Gaza are worth mentioning in the statement as part of the "chain of nonviolent resistance to Israel 's flagrant disregard of international law." Examples include the human chain from Rafah to Erez, the tearing down of the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt and the marches to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel .

Best regards,

Haidar Eid ( Gaza ) Omar Barghouti ( Jerusalem )